The Bulls own the 18th overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft. The conventional play would be to use the pick on a cost-controlled, rookie-scale contract to find a rotation player — or even an eventual starter — and begin to replenish the young talent on a roster that, in Vučević and DeRozan, employ two starters north of 30 years old.
As of now, Arturas Karnisovas, Marc Eversley and their draft room hold the no. 18 overall pick. But, there is certainly a possibility the pick is traded before they are on the clock.
There are other trade options for the Bulls, too, which include potentially landing Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins or simply trading their pick along with Coby White to move up in the draft order. One of the positions of need includes a backup to center Nikola Vucevic. Their front court depth was a huge area of weakness last season.
Another spot they could go after, in a similar fashion, is a backup to power forward Patrick Williams. Again, the depth there looked shoddy at times last season.
Choice 1: Tari Eason
If the Bulls want to stockpile another Patrick Williams type of talent behind him, then LSU forward Tari Eason is their guy. The 6-foot-8 forward is one of those types that does a lot of things well, and did so coming off the bench for the Tigers last year.
Although Eason came off the bench, he still played a strong 24.4 minutes per game for LSU. He was one of the best players in all of the conference, in fact, even though he was technically a reserve.
Eason shot over 52 percent from the field and 36 percent from three, averaging 16.9 points per game to go with 6.6 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.1 blocks. He was the true definition of a two-way player, very similar to what the Bulls see in Patrick Williams.
Eason is a guy that could come right in and spell either Williams or DeMar DeRozan, offering versatility as a defender. He’s also a great rebounder, proving to be a menace on the boards. Depending on whether the Bulls plan to re-sign Derrick Jones Jr. or Troy Brown Jr., Eason is a player who could take on that type of role for Chicago. He’s mocked just inside pick 18 by ESPN, but very well could be there.
Choice 2: Ochai Agbaji
Unlike many of his draft mates, Kansas small forward Ochai Agbaji is a four-year player coming into the league. It’s more of a rarity nowadays for first-round guys, but Agbaji is a very well-rounded player who improved every season with the Jayhawks.
Standing 6-foot-6, Agbaji offers prowess on both ends of the floor and brings plenty of athleticism. This is a kid who has a whole lot of experience and comes from a known, winning program. Agbaji is seasoned and ready for an NBA role right away.
This past season, Agbaji proved to be one of the best shooters in the country, knocking down over 40 percent of his three balls. On the year, he averaged 18.8 points on 47.5 percent shooting from the field, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 0.9 steals per game.
Pairing Agbaji with a guy like Alex Caruso off the bench could prove to give the Bulls an incredible bench unit, along with Ayo Dosunmu. The defensive intensity Chicago would possess on their bench is something Billy Donovan would absolutely love to see. If Agbaji is there at no. 18, the Bulls should seriously consider snagging him.
Choice 3: Jeremy Sochan
Next up, we come to Baylor forward Jeremy Sochan, who is one of the more polarizing players in the draft. By first glance, one would wonder if he’s worthy of being a first-round talent based on his season averages. Sochan put up a modest line of 9.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.7 blocks per game.
But, upon a further look, Sochan becomes interesting. He does have a fine jumper when he decides to use it. His three ball is not as good as you’d like to see at just 29 percent, but improvement is hopefully in his future if he wants to earn a good chunk of minutes. He’ll have to improve from that area.
Back to the positives, though, as Sochan is one of the most defensively versatile players in this draft class. At nearly 6-foot-10, he can comfortably defend the four and five. But, he consistently switches out onto perimeter shooters and guards — and he does it willingly and comfortably.
Sochan is more of a do-it-all type of player who can defend an array of positions while not being a liability on offense. He’s a hustle player, always looking to make the right play on either end of the floor. Sochan could end up being a huge “glue” guy off the bench for the Bulls if he’s available there at 18.
Choice 4: E.J. Liddell
One of the most talked about players, when it comes to draft options for the Bulls, is Ohio State power forward E.J. Liddell. He comes into the NBA as a 6-foot-7 big man, so he is a bit undersized. However, he uses his power to his advantage and it allows him to play both positions.
As we saw last year, the depth in the front court was not ideal. Once Patrick Williams went down to injury, the Bulls had a hard time finding a replacement. At times, it was veteran wing Javonte Green. Other times, Derrick Jones Jr. stepped in, though he’s more of a three. Alex Caruso even saw a start in Williams’ place at one point.
But, Liddell could offer the Bulls a solid reserve option off the bench here, resolving a need. He is a solid defender, despite his size, and even offers the Bulls an outside shot — 37 percent from three-point land last season.
Liddell has a decent jumper, but it will need more work at the professional level. He is a dependable scorer, though, so he is able to give the Bulls competence on both ends of the floor. Last season, Liddell averaged 19.4 points on 49 percent shooting, to go with 7.9 rebounds and an impressive 2.6 blocks per game. He is a well-rounded option and would be a phenomenal pick for this particular roster.
Choice 5: Mark Williams
There is no question about it: Duke center Mark Williams is the dream scenario for the Bulls at pick no. 18. At the moment, he is ranked as the number 14 overall player in the draft, per ESPN. He is ranked similarly by other outlets, as well, and could even end up in the top 13 as a lottery pick.
But, as we’ve established, once the draft gets past pick seven or eight, it’s going to get a little murky. There is no telling what other teams could end up doing based on need or whom they view as the best player available.
Williams, though, fills an immediate need for the Bulls. It is a need that was apparent all last season, as the depth behind Nikola Vucevic was little to none in terms of impact. For a little while, it was Tony Bradley, and Bulls fans were driven over the edge by just how bad he was when on the floor.
The Bulls then signed Tristan Thompson after he hit the buyout market, and Thompson provided a little spark here and there. But, he had no defensive impact whatsoever.
That’s where Williams shines. He was last season’s ACC Defensive Player of the Year, averaging a whopping 2.8 blocks per game to go with his 11.2 points and 7.4 rebounds. Williams brings the energy on defense every single possession, and would be an instant upgrade behind Vucevic.